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August 23, 2021

Case Study: Waukesha County Expo Center


Retrofit projects and remodels generate a particular set of challenges when compared to new construction. In these types of projects, design centers around the constraints of the space, and it is essential that you work within its limits. These design challenges were especially apparent when Strang tackled the outdated mechanical systems of the Waukesha County Expo Center.

Built in 1972, the Waukesha County Exposition Center Arena complex features 21,000 SF of year-round heated and air-conditioned meeting and exhibit space. It includes a domed roof, stage, three meeting rooms, kitchen, two balconies, staff offices, and box office. The primary heating and cooling system were original to the building and at 48 years of service life, was in dire need of replacement.

Strang partnered with Waukesha County to improve the Expo Center’s overall HVAC and mechanical systems, all of which contributed to increased efficiency and cost savings.


This project’s challenges can be summed up in one sentence—how can we cost-effectively update the mechanical systems of this old, round building? The Waukesha Expo Center is a taxpayer-funded, public entity, so it was crucial that we keep the budget on track. Any mechanical solutions had to be carefully managed and tracked.
The previous gas-fired equipment was not only inefficient but included parts that were verging on obsolete. Replacements were no longer available and needed to be custom fabricated­—another facility cost. It is difficult to make an old system cost-effective, which meant Strang had to jump in from the beginning of the project to offer Good-Better-Best solutions that meet this challenge. Our team helped set a budget and was there to provide solutions to the surprises that inevitably arise when working with old systems.

The shape of the building itself also offered a unique obstacle. The Expo Center is a round building that required large gluelams (glued laminated timbers) for the structure of the concrete walls. This meant that the existing mechanical systems were kept in a pie-shaped room with glulams running down at steep angles. It was up to the Strang team to find a system that would both fit into the space and meet the needs of Waukesha County. This called for a perfectly sized hot water boiler plant and pinpointing a custom air handling unit that would fit into the space just right.


Ultimately, Strang replaced the existing heating and air conditioning equipment that served the main arena building with a new, automated, and energy efficient system. This included a new boiler plant, air handling units, and air-cooled condensing units. The budget, existing facility systems, and unique shape of the building were all kept at the forefront of the design while efficiency and temperature control were maximized.

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